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Your Sporadic Meme

Sporadic updates Monday through Friday. Unless the Comet Hits.

Jan 1, 2000 through Jan. 10:

Everything You Wanted to Know About the AOL/Warner Merger But Were Afraid To Ask: The big downside here is that AOL is the major player behind Open Access to the cable wires. Now that they own the cable wires they're less likely to oppose monopoly ownership of these resources. On the other hand, it looks like cable modems are terrible. It's nonsecure and your speed slows as the network grows. So maybe it’s a moot point. The best place to check out a summary of the stories is the Industry Standard's Media Grok.

Blacklight Labs: Science Fact or Science Fiction?: One of the cooler science (?) stories that I’ve read this year. It appeared in the Village Voice and was very interesting. It features a guy who claims that he’s solved the Grand Unification Theory—something that Time’s Man of the Century Einstein failed to do—and he’s got a slew of revolutionary products that go along with the theory. The guy’s got good credentials, of course the same could be said of the Unabomber. What was interesting were the very blunt putdowns between this guy and the man who would be the new Sagan, popular physics explainer Michio Kaku. I have never seen funnier putdowns traded between scientists. The Big Bang exists, smirks Kaku. Where’s that quantum time machine, countersmirks the Blacklight guy. This actually appeared a while ago, but its still the coolest story I've read in a while.

Gene Derived Glow in the Dark Water Pistols: The Beginning of Ribofunk?: There's a great book called Ribofunk written by the equally great writer Paul DiFilippo which is sort of cyberpunk meets biotech. In the book he imagines all kinds of weirdness that would come with genetic experimentation. Gangs who use their genes like troupe colors were among the coolest visions. So, you can imagine how I felt about a company that uses luminescent genes to create glow in the dark water pistols. The future is here and its gonna be really really weird.

New Tech Review Online: Technology Review pretty much puts out everything that you see in the magazine online. In fact, they primarily put out the good stuff. I guess you buy the mag out of posterity or habit. Some of the top stories are about how we might see the benefits of nanomedicine in our lifetimes and the other is an interview with our man Ray "Age of Spiritual Machines" Kurzweil.

December 20, 1999:

Balanced Overview of Nan State o' the Art: Great story on what Nanotech can be and what it probably won't be. Makes the Nanotech story compelling, and also manages some digs at Eric Drexler's Foresight Institute. I don't agree with that position actually. Much of the practical work that has been done in nanotech and breathlessly reported in places like Slashdot and Wired has also appeared at Foresight. So Drexler has exagerated a bit. So what? That's called sellin' the product. And quite frankly, the implications of nan are staggering. For all intents and purposes, it is magic.

New Compression Breakthrough: A scientist thinks he can triple internet speeds just by changing how the math is calculated. Could bring us closer to television quality over net netlines, or at least a consistent Real Networks broadcast.

Week of December 12th through December 19th:

Top Ten Science Stories of the Year: Stem Cell research is number one. Even though we're not really allowed to do it. I thought these were right on the mark. Includes the usual suspects in medicine, nan, etc.

Suck Slashdot Spoof Right on Target: If you've been reading Slashdot heavily like I have every day, then you realize that this is masterful. They mock everything. The manic defenseness of Linux devotees, the worship of Linus, and their obscure high science stories--which I always read and post here. Humorously enough, I read about the spoof in Slashdot itself. I guess they can take a joke.

Cute Lego Like Robot Constructed By NEC: As an answer to AIBO I suppose, you get this cute Lego like robot from NEC. I guess its not supposed to offend me. Hey, you know, I won't be offended by those Jeri Ryan (Borg Babe) android servants either. Really. I won't.

Speculation About Farming on Mars: This is an interesting piece that I found in Event Horizon, which sadly is kind of going out of business. So, you better read this now.

December 8, 1999:

Singularity Level Story about the Internet Through Power Lines: Slashdot alerted me to this story several days ago. It's very well written. For those of us who follow this kind of thing, this isn't new. What's new is that this guy in Texas has the money, backing and apparently the background to pull this off. It's nine pages so you will have to do a lot of clicking, but it's worth it. The story even picks industries that will vanish once the tech is perfected. The Singularilty, by the way, refers to a completely transformative technology, like a fuel derived from water or faster than light speed travel. If those stories appeared in your morning paper, then everything would change, and not necessarily for the better.

WTO Roundup: I thought there were a couple of good stories about the Battle of Seatle. One of the unlikely sources was Matt Drudge. I disagree about most of his viewpoints--e.g. I don't have a pathological hatred of President Cllinton--but he's catching on to globalization and that Big Media and their Big Rich Owners aren't, to quote, giving us both sides now. Too bad Matt isn't much of a writer. If Matt could write he'd probably be jon Katz, who wrote a great piece in Slashdot.

Breakthough on New CD Storage Technique: The high IQ folks at slashdot think this story should is old because it was reported on two months ago. The reason its important is because of details, details, and details. We learn about the Israeli/Russian collective, the various funders and most importantly the stunning capacity and its uses. By the way, not only are they talking 140 gigs per CD side, but they think they could possibly improve that by a factor of 10. Sometime back, a guy interviewed by Maximum PC said if you could improve memory significantly you could videotape your life. Looks like tomorrow is now.


November 29:

I Fit The Profile: Frightening Jon Katz piece about FBI's profiling of potential high school killers. Apparently, if you have above average intelligence and resent authority you're in the group.

November 21 through 27:

Yahoo Interview with Science Fiction Idols: Actually, I never thought Yahoo was a magazine that I would find that interesting. But, apparently, when your valuation exceeds a billion or so, you can put some of that money back into the magazine. It shows. This Yahoo interview features seven science fiction writers, among them: Dan Simmons, Bruce Sterling, Connie Willis, Kim Stanley Robinson and my hero Harlan Ellison, who probably shouldn't have been there but he's always entertaining. This is also online, in 11 sections or so, so prepare to click a lot. Interesting reading.

MSNBC/Feed Do Future Stuff Collaboration: Huge pieces on the future from Feed primarily, which get distributed through MSNBC. Everything from nanotech to future devices get covered. Ambitious, far-ranging and readable, even though I haven't read everything yet.

Scary Civil Liberties Stuff on the Horizon: There were a couple of scary items on the civil liberties front, which I discovered mostly on Slashdot. Lately, they've been using this face with a black slash across the mouth to communicate on censorship issues.The really frightening piece had to do with how the FBI just shut down some site of a New York based filmmaker without a warrant. The other had to do with the Draconian rules being proposed in Australia to censor the internet. (Slashdot) The slashdot piece makes the case As Below As Above, but I don't think that's necessarily the case at least as long as the new tech elites keep forking over those big contributions.

Information about Mars Probe: Wacky high impact plan using lawn dart projectiles to garner data about the Martian surface. Also related: Six new worlds have been found.

Shameless Self Promotion: Here are some of my best (self-defined) epinions. My review of Dogma is called Die Religion Die and my review of Walter Mosley's Blue Light is called The Blue Light Fades to Black.

November 18th

Just in time for Bond: Chinese Plan for Internet War: According to Slashdot, this is a scary yet entertaining story about the extent of cyberwar.

Every Breath You Take, Part III: The American Civil Liberties Union thinks that the Echelon project--a worldwide eavesdropping service that listens in to everything faxed, spoken or emailed if you're not paranoid enough--and they intend to do something about it. How, who knows.

FCC Wimps, to cowardly to enforce open access upon cable, try a backdoor route for competition: Well the title says it all I think.

Week in Review: Oct. 31st through November 7th:

Slashdot Coverage of Microsoft Chaos Best: I thought the best coverage I saw of the Microsoft decision came from Slashdot. While they don't have "stories" per se they do have what has to be described as the best and smartest readership on the web. Wrap up stories from CNET, Wired and the Industry Standard were also good and comprehensive. Even though Slashdot was the first site to post the actual decision, at least by my count.

Here's the complete text of the decision.

New Energy Source: Brilliant combination of both hydrogen fuel cells and nanotubes could produce new energy source.

Week in Review. Oct. 24 through Oct. 30, 1999:

Calling Jeremy Rifkin: Private Company Begins Process to Start Patenting Genome: I guess the pertinent question is whether or not the patent is retroactive. To play media grok critic, I thought the BBC story was the best one out of several that I had seen on the Internet. The BBC quoted Bad Boy Geneticist (I’m parahrasing Wired) Craig Vertner who explained that this was just an initial step and that his company has already found some exciting things. The general tone of the stories I read say that this is something that we should be worried about. I agree.

Every Breath You Take, Part Two. Another version of this story appeared in Slashdot several days ago, but apparently the federal government can send somebody outside your door and monitor all the signals from your computer. So much for PGP. Someone doth protest too much about encryption methinks.

Space Research Leads to Possible Healing Agent of Light: Yet another example of where space technology yields wondrous results here on terra firma.

How to Get The Girls: Simply put, one of the best written pieces I've ever read on the internet. I don't know if Slashdot ever plans to anthologize their pieces, but this is publishable. It's elegant. It's funny. It's also something that you very seldom get on the net: It's mature.

Tech Mags Weighed and Reviewed: Can't tell your Wireds from Biz 2.0z from your Red Herrings? Well just read this handy dandy guide and find out.

Week in Review Oct. 17 through Oct. 23, 1999:

Blind Arab Hackers Run Amok: Fascinating story about blind Arab hackers who, considering that they’re both sightless, did some amazing things with computer systems. In fact, their hacks seem to be beyond belief. If you showed me their exploits in a movie, then I would not take you seriously. What’s also interesting is that there’s a political element to their hacking. The first time I’ve seen hacking done from the hand of the oppressed. It’s definitely a different kind of hacking.

Travel Plans To The Red Planet: Zubrin, in case you didn’t know, is probably the most famous public proponent of sending people to Mars dirty and cheap. Here he talks about his philosophy and ideas. There are even some quotes by James Cameron (arguably the best science fiction director on Earth despite Titantic) who is using Zubrin as a consultant as he creates his own Mars movie.

Born to Be Borg: Aspiring English chap aspires to become the Borg. Talks about past and future implants. Dreams of stitching wearable computing under the skin.

Nanotech Stories in CNET: Nice collection of nanotech stories in CNET Thursday.

Artificial Chromosome Is Highlight of This Week’s New New Scientist’s Stories: The usual lot of interesting and cutting edge stories.

Oct. 14, 1999:

Every Breath You Take, Every Move You Make:  Completely horrifying story about how scientists can create sensors the size of dust motes. Write up your own nightmare here. First link has diagram, second link here takes you to MSNBC story.

Your Seeing Eye Cat: Wild, somewhat ethically troubling hi sci story about how scientists were able to tap into and decode the neural impulses of a cat. I suppose if I were, say, Evil, you could miniaturize the transmitter and use your cat as a spy or even a virtual reality ride. Just strap on the VR goggles and watch kitty eat a bird. Yep. That would be wrong said the writer wondering how he could patent that idea Priceline style...

Those Scary Lucent Guys Help Invent Portable Electric Paper Which Could Turn Shirts Into Billboards: Theoretically, I guess my shirt with the obscene message could be altered now and then. Aesthetically, a world changer. Imagine everyone as a walking billboard.

Arthur Clarke sez Cold Fusion is Real and Offers other predictions: The man who gave us the idea of Satellites scans out an interesting timeline for the next 100 years. He is a firm believer in cold fusion and thinks it will be a revolutionary source of energy. And if cold fusion is real that prediction is a safe bet.


Oct. 8, 1999:

Shameless, No Doubt Satan Inspired VR Sex Suit To Be On Sale Next Year…I Wonder If The Suit comes in An Extra Large?: Teledildonics, a somehow very appropriately silly sounding word which roughly means sex with the aid of machines, is coming to your town. You can wear the suit. You can feel someone on the other end of a modem or a high speed T1 line touch you when you wear the suit. Oh yes, there's only the slight risk of being electrocuted via power surge while you're in the suit. But what a way to go. What a way to go.

Intriguing Tale of Super Hackers and the Tough Lawman (Soon to Be Played by Tom Selleck) Who Brought The Less Astute of Them Down: Yet another MSNBC story about very competent hackers and the elite tech cops who go after them. Best Quote: "These aren’t the kind of guys who go into the 7-11 and then stare directly at the camera." What's also intriguing is that some of these guys got away. Neuromancer lives.

Screw Mars: Take Me ToThe Brown Dwarf, Size of Several Hundred Earths--and with a crust, possibly--or Have Light Sail, Will Travel 3 Trillion Miles: I hate to keep using words like "stunning" and "astonishing" and "astounding" but hey, if the adjective fits. Simply a stunning, astonishing, and astounding story here. Do you know anything about Brown Dwarfs? From what I've read they're about the size of suns and they might be habitable. And they're huge. They would have the area of several hundred Earths. You could do some serious traveling. Or maybe its already inhabited. Maybe that's where the Mayans went or that's where the Alien Grays hang out. Back in the early 80's there was a feeling floating around that our star had a twin floating around that would orbit real close sometime and cause all kinds of chaos like dinosaur extinctions and such. Or maybe the inhabitants set their own orbit like the Founders in Deep Space Nine or the folks who run the Spin Dizzy's in James Blish's City of Stars…Who knew. Gotta learn more about this. Will somebody please point Hubble in the right direction?….


Oct. 5, 1999:

New CD Rom Revolutionizes Storage at 140 Gig: Astounding story about how a new CD Rom Tech allows for 140 Gig of memory. Equally astounding is that the technology might be on the market within a year and that there might be applications for Ram and Floppy Disk Memory.

HAL Like Neural Network Based Voice Recognition Might Be Reality: If this is true, then the kind of voice recog that we see in Trek could be coming to a computer near you. Not only did it outperform the leading software but for the first time it beat a human being. Ramifications not only for speaking software but neural networks.


Sept. 30, 1999:

Can Weird Looking Roto Plane Contraption Actually Fly?: Hey, see for yourself.

That's Venture Capitalist Bond, Venture Capitalist James Bond: CIA sponsors venture capitalist fund. No promises that potential partners won't be killed by School of Americas grads or assassinated by lone gunman. (Yeah I know Bond worked for the British just cut me slack here...)

Sept 29th, 1999:

Science Fiction Creates Science Once Again: Nasa's new robotic helpful--which will flit around cartoon style in weightless conditions--is borrowed from the Stars Wars Light Saber training scene. Very cool

artsat.jpg (12933 bytes)


Dark Side of Sneakers: You know, Robert Redford played a white hat hacker who was paid to break into people's establishments so that crackers couldn't. Nowadays, according to this story, Clint Eastwood would have to replace Redford in Sneakers 2 and there would a scene where Clint finds the would-be cracker's house, pays him a call, asks "Do You Feel Lucky, Punk? Do Ya?" Amazing story that has all kinds of cool fictional potential. 

Term "Plastic Plants" Takes on New Meaning: Those darn scientists have done it again. They've built plants that produce plastic. More weird, slightly disconcerting stuff from the future.

The week in review: September 21 through 25

Hey Kids, Build Your Own Chemical Based, Derived Computer: Well, not exactly, but if you read that MIT technology Interview with that guy who wants to build computers chemically there were two developments this week--separate from what the MIT guy is working on apparently. One plan involve DNA and the other…The other liquid computer story has to do with a plan by Russian scientists to use chemical reactions and the other is about a US team that's apparently built a prototype.

--Russian Guys Build Liquid Robotic Brain

Comparison Between Cable and DSL: Salon strikes again with this story about what are there relative strengths and weaknesses.

Expert Urges NASA to Privatize: The space foundation tells NASA where to get off. They have a cool web site too. Why don't one of these new net billionaires step up with some cash and change the world. They're all science fictional anyway.

Sept. 14, 1999:

Coders of the World Unite!: There's an interesting piece in Salon--where the Left gets a fair hearing at least--written by a commie, uh, "Marxist" person who thinks that the Open Source movement will do more to destabilize our imperialist regime more than any KGB plot. His argument makes sense to me. You can say what you want about Open Source but you can't say any of its practitioners need or want to make a trillion dollars in their lifetime.

Russian Hackers Break Into Pentagon Computers Thus Stretching The Limit For Improbable Bond Plotlines Or "Destroy Goldeneye!": "Cyberwar is here" is what the clearly jittery Pentagon official said in this story. Feels like a Bond plotline. But where is Goldfinger? Or is Dr. Evil merely routing the attacks through the old Soviet Union to target somebody obvious just like Blofelt trying to initiate a war in You Only Live Twice…Watch the skies for further news.

Superior Stuff in Tech Review this month and most of its online: Usually I always urge everybody to go out and buy the usually superior MIT Technology Review, but they’ve placed a lot of their stuff online for free so why bother? Great story about how a scientist wants to build the next great computer with chemistry. Plus lots of other great features.

In the "Dare You Call it Science Fiction" Department: learn how to build your own bacteria: Leading chem/gen guy says he’s figured out how to build life at the level of bacteria. Story suggests that would quickly lead to the design of higher organisms. Build your own Pamela Lee or Bjork. More thrilling and scary stuff at the frontier of science.

Silly CBS Show Now and Then Body Transplant premise Not So Silly: There’s this new CBS show that features John Goodman’s brain being placed into a superman’s body. This story suggests that isn’t such a silly premise. Story revolves around that guy who did the gruesome experiments where he attempted to put another monkey’s brain on top of another monkey’s body which you might have seen on Discover several times or more.

Interesting Tech Web Interview with "Doug Rushkoff: Cyberia author speculates that new technology probably means designing new ways of teaching. It seems to be his own theory of how things should change according to cybertech. He doesn’t seem to be relying on the Old School of Deconstructing and/or Destroying School theorists like John Holt, Paul Goodman, Ivan Illich and that Paolo Friere guy whose name I probably misspelled. Still interesting though.

 Sept 10, 1999:

Youngstown Ohio Engineer Creates Equivalent of Perpetual Motion Machine: These guys say they've created the Water Engine, the mcguffin of some lackluster TNT movie. It's non polluting, consumes no fossil fuels, and get this, it's only by product is cold air. So, let me get this straight: You live in a desert and you have a power generator and an air conditioner? Geez, get me one. From the story, it sounds like an airborne version of OTEC--popularized in the Marshall Savage book "The Millenial Project"--or ocean thermal energy conversion, except you would use air. I just hope the inventor watches his back. I think they shot that Water Engine guy in the movie and buried the patent.

I was so excited about this I called up one of the engineers at the company and asked if it was real. He claims they have a working prototype.

We shall see.

More Dirt on Founder of Struggling Microworkz: The resume of Rick Latman isn't pretty. You can't accuse the writers here of being prissy centrist mainstream journalist types…The article pretty much calls this guy a liar and a cheat.

Excellent Media Grok Roundup at Industry Standard: Media Grok, if you haven't read it before, rounds up several stories a day and compares them. Great smorgasboard of stories involving everything from the coverage of the NSA/Microsoft stories to the new pop music fights poverty website.

.Sept. 8, 1999:

Microsoft and the NSA: Separated at Birth?: There's still some dispute as to whether the National Security Agency (They're deservedly shown to be the bad guys in most spy movies that you see.) actually had their pals Microsoft build in a backdoor. To defend Microsoft, how do you say no to the NSA? You probably don't if you like your plane to land correctly. Scary stuff. Not that I have anything to hide from Big Brother. I love Big Brother. So should you.

Jeremy Rifkin and Prominent Biotech Guy get into it at testy European Conference on Future Genetics: Wired has several pieces on the ARS Electronica conference on the future of Biotech.

Speilberg May Direct Last Kubrick vehicle and would  probably do better job: Kubrick had been working on AI for years and whispers have been spoken about it for years.  It's based on a Brian Aldiss short story. I have to admit that when they finally republished the short story in Wired some months back I wasn't that impressed. But who knows what Speilberg could do for the project.